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Template:Capital punishment Stoning, or lapidation, is a form of capital punishment whereby a group throws stones at a person until the person dies. No individual among the group can be identified as the one who kills the subject. This is in contrast to the case of a judicial executioner. Stoning is slower than other forms of execution, and hence is a form of execution by torture.[citation needed]

In history

Stoning is an ancient form of capital punishment. There are historical reports of stoning from Ancient Greece.[1] Stoning is also mentioned in Ancient Greek mythology.[2]

In Judaism

Template:Further Although allowing for the death penalty in some hypothetical circumstances, scholars of Judaism are broadly opposed to the death penalty as practiced in the modern world. The Jewish opposition is not based on a literal reading of the Jewish Bible, but rather on Judaism's Oral Law. In AD 30, forty years before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin effectively abolished capital punishment. As God alone was deemed to be the only arbiter in the use of capital punishment, not fallible people, the Sanhedrin made stoning a hypothetical upper limit on the severity of punishment.[3]

In Jewish sources

Template:Further Prior to early Christianity, particularly in the Mishnah, doubts were growing in Jewish society about the morality of capital punishment in general and stoning in particular. The laws make it clear that the death penalty was used only rarely. The Mishnah states:

A Sanhedrin that puts a man to death once in seven years is called destructive. Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariah says that this extends to a Sanhedrin that puts a man to death even once in seventy years. Rabbi Akiba and Rabbi Tarfon say: Had we been in the Sanhedrin none would ever have been put to death. Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel says: they would have multiplied shedders of blood in Israel.[4]

In the following centuries the leading Jewish sages imposed so many restrictions on the implementation of capital punishment as to make it de facto illegal. The restrictions were to prevent execution of the innocent, and included many conditions for a testimony to be admissible that were difficult to fulfill.

Philosopher Moses Maimonides wrote, "It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent one to death."[5] He was concerned that the law guard its public perception, to preserve its majesty and retain the people's respect. He saw errors of commission as much more threatening to the integrity of law than errors of omission.[6]

Mode of Judgment

In rabbinic law, capital punishment may only be inflicted by the verdict of a regularly constituted court of three-and-twenty qualified members. There must be the most trustworthy and convincing testimony of at least two qualified eye-witnesses to the crime, who must also depose that the culprit had been forewarned of the criminality and the consequences of his project.[7] The culprit must be a person of legal age and of sound mind, and the crime must be proved to have been committed of the culprit's free will and without the aid of others.

On the day the verdict is pronounced, the convict is led forth to execution. The Torah law (Leviticus 19,18) prescribes, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself"; and the Rabbis maintain that this love must be extended beyond the limits of social intercourse in life, and applied even to the convicted criminal who, "though a sinner, is still thy brother" (Mak. 3,15; Sanh. 44a): "The spirit of love must be manifested by according him a decent death" (Sanh. 45a, 52a). Torah law provides (Deut. 24,16), "The parents shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the parents; every man shall be put to death for his own sins", and rabbinic jurisprudence follows this principle both to the letter and in spirit. A sentence is not attended by confiscation of the convict's goods; the person's possessions descend to their legal heirs.

The Talmud limits the use of the death penalty to Jewish criminals who:

  • (A) while about to do the crime were warned not to commit the crime while in the presence of two witnesses (and only individuals who meet a strict list of standards are considered acceptable witnesses); and
  • (B) having been warned, committed the crime in front of the same two witnesses.[8]

In theory, the Talmudic method of how stoning is to be carried out differs from mob stoning. According to the Jewish Oral Law, after the Jewish criminal has been determined as guilty before the Great Sanhedrin, the two valid witnesses and the sentenced criminal go to the edge of a high place. From there the two witnesses are to push the criminal off. After the criminal has fallen, the two witnesses are to drop a large boulder onto the criminal – requiring both of the witnesses to lift the boulder together. If the criminal did not die from the fall or from the crushing of the large boulder, then any people in the surrounding area are to quickly cause him to die by stoning with whatever rocks they can find.

The 18 crimes related to stoning

Rabbinic law based on the authority of the torah, expressed or inferred, affixes death by stoning to eighteen crimes:[7]

  1. Bestiality committed by man (Lev. xx. 15; Sanh. vii. 4, 54b; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, x. 1; Mek., Mishpaṭim, 17).
  2. Bestiality committed by woman (Lev. xx. 16: Sanh. vii. 4, 54b; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, x. 3; Mek., Mishpaṭim, 17).
  3. Blasphemy (Lev. xxiv. 16; Sanh. vii. 4, 43a; Sifra, Emor, xix.).
  4. Intercourse with a betrothed virgin (Deut. xxii. 23, 24; Sanh. vii. 4, 66b; Sifre, Deut. 242).
  5. Intercourse with one's own daughter-in-law (Lev. xx. 12; Sanh. vii. 4, 53a; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, ix. 13).
  6. Intercourse with one's own mother (Lev. xviii. 7, xx. 11; Sanh. vii. 4, 53a; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, ix. 12).
  7. Intercourse with one's own stepmother (Lev. xviii. 8, xx. 11; Sanh. vii. 4, 53a; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, ix. 12).
  8. Cursing a parent (Lev. xx. 9; Sanh. vii. 4, 66a; Mek., Mishpaṭim, 17; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, ix. 7).
  9. Enticing individuals to idolatry: "Mesit" (Deut. xiii. 7–12 [A. V. 6–11]; Sanh. vii. 4, 67a; Sifre, Deut. 90).
  10. Idolatry (Deut. xvii. 2–7; Sanh. vii. 4, 60b; Sifre, Deut. 149).
  11. Instigating communities to idolatry: "Maddiaḥ" (Deut. xiii. 2–6 [A. V. 1–5]; Sanh. vii. 4, 67a; Sifre, Deut. 86).
  12. Necromancy (Lev. xx. 27; Sanh. vii. 4, 65a; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, xi., end).
  13. Offering one's own children to Molech (Lev. xx. 2; Sanh. vii. 4, 64a; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, viii., parashah 10, beginning).
  14. Pederasty (Lev. xx. 13; Sanh. vii. 4, 54a; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, ix. 14).
  15. Pythonism (Lev. xx. 27; Sanh. vii. 4, 65a; Sifra, Ḳedoshim, xi., end).
  16. Rebelling against parents (Deut. xxi. 18–21; Sanh. vii. 4, 68b; Sifre, Deut. 220).
  17. Shabbath-breaking (Num. xv. 32–36; Sanh. vii. 4; Sifre, Num. 114).
  18. Witchcraft (Ex. xxii. 17 [A. V. 18]; Sanh. vii. 4, 67a; Mek., Mishpaṭim, 17).

In Islam

Islamic Sharia Law is based on the Koran, the hadith, and the biography of Mohammed. Shia and Sunni hadith collections differ because scholars from the two traditions differ as to the reliability of the narrators and transmitters. Shi'a sayings related to stoning can be found in Kitab al-Kafi; Sunni sayings related to stoning can be found in the Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.[9]

The Koran forbids all sexual intercourse outside the marital bond as sinful, but makes no distinction between adultery and fornication—and in both cases the punishment is flogging for those found guilty.[10] Stoning (rajm) as a punishment for adultery is not mentioned in the Koran, so some modernist Muslim scholars (past and present)[who?] take the view that stoning to death was never contemplated as a punishment.

In the Sahih Bukhari, however, stoning is mandated by Mohammed at least 34 times.[11][12] According to the Hanbali jurist Ibn Qudamah, "Muslim jurists are unanimous on the fact that stoning to death is a specified punishment for the married adulterer and adulteress. The punishment is recorded in number of traditions and the practice of Muhammad stands as an authentic source supporting it. This is the view held by all Companions, Successors and other Muslim scholars with the exception of Kharijites."[13]

Based on this, in several Muslim countries, such as, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, adultery is punishable by stoning.

In hadith (sayings)

Sahih Muslim, Book 17, Chapter 6: Stoning to Death of Jews and Other Dhimmis In Cases of Adultery, Number 4216: Jabir b.'Abdullah reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) stoned (to death) a person from Banu Aslam, and a Jew and his wife.[14]

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23: Funerals, Number 413: Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar: The Jew brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from amongst them who have committed (adultery) illegal sexual intercourse. He ordered both of them to be stoned (to death), near the place of offering the funeral prayers beside the mosque." [15]

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 50: Conditions, Number 885: Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: A bedouin came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's apostle! I ask you by Allah to judge My case according to Allah's Laws." His opponent, who was more learned than he, said, "Yes, judge between us according to Allah's Laws, and allow me to speak." Allah's Apostle said, "Speak." He (i .e. the bedouin or the other man) said, "My son was working as a laborer for this (man) and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife. The people told me that it was obligatory that my son should be stoned to death, so in lieu of that I ransomed my son by paying one hundred sheep and a slave girl. Then I asked the religious scholars about it, and they informed me that my son must be lashed one hundred lashes, and be exiled for one year, and the wife of this (man) must be stoned to death." Allah's Apostle said, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, I will judge between you according to Allah's Laws. The slave-girl and the sheep are to be returned to you, your son is to receive a hundred lashes and be exiled for one year. You, Unais, go to the wife of this (man) and if she confesses her guilt, stone her to death." Unais went to that woman next morning and she confessed. Allah's Apostle ordered that she be stoned to death.[16]

Usage today

As of 2010, stoning is practiced in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Iraq and Iran.


Before the Taliban government, most areas of Afghanistan, aside from the capital, Kabul, were controlled locally by warlords or tribal leaders and the Afghan legal system depended highly on an individual community's local culture and the political and/or religious ideology of its leaders. Stoning also occurred in lawless areas, where vigilantes committed the act for political purposes. Once the Taliban took over, stoning became the official punishment for many crimes. The U.S.-led occupation ended stoning as an official court ruling, but it still occurs unofficially.[17][18] A Taliban-ordered public stoning of a couple accused of adultery took place in Kunduz on August 15, 2010.[19]


In 2009 a law was introduced in Aceh that called for the stoning of married adulterers[20] but no cases of the sentence having been carried out have yet been reported.


In 2007 Yezidi girl Du'a Khalil Aswad was stoned by Yezidi men in northern Iraq.[21]


In Iran, stoning as a punishment did not exist until 1983, when the contemporary Islamic penal code was ratified. Many Muslim jurists in Iran are of the opinion that although stoning can be considered Islamic, the criteria under which it can be imposed as a sentence are stringent; because of the large burden of proof needed to reach a guilty sentence of adultery, its penalty is hardly ever applicable.

Following vociferous domestic and international controversy and outcry over stoning in the early years of the Islamic republic, the government placed a moratorium on stoning in 2002.[22] As a result, stoning was not practiced since, although it remained on the books. In 2008, Iran's judiciary decided to submit a new draft penal code to parliament for approval.[23] In January 2005, the Iranian judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimirad was quoted as saying "Stoning has been dropped from the penal code for a long time, and in the Islamic republic, we do not see such punishments being carried out", further adding that if stoning sentences were passed by lower courts, they were over-ruled by higher courts and "no such verdicts have been carried out."[24] In 2008, Iran's judiciary scrapped stoning in draft legislation submitted to parliament for approval.[23] As of June 2009, Iran's parliament has been reviewing and revising the Islamic penal code to omit stoning.[25]


Since the Sharia legal system was introduced in the predominantly Muslim north of Nigeria in 2000, more than a dozen Nigerian Muslims have been sentenced to death by stoning for sexual offences ranging from adultery to homosexuality. However, none of these sentences has actually been carried out. They have either been thrown out on appeal or commuted to prison terms as a result of pressure from human rights groups.

Saudi Arabia, Sudan

Stonings, with and without legal proceedings, have been reported in Sudan and Saudi Arabia.[26]


In October, 2008, a girl, Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow, was buried up to her neck at a Somalian football stadium, then stoned to death in front of more than 1,000 people. The stoning occurred after she had allegedly pleaded guilty to adultery in a sharia court in Kismayo, a city controlled by Islamist insurgents. According to the insurgents she had stated that she wanted sharia law to apply.[27] However, other sources state that the victim had been crying, that she begged for mercy and had to be forced into the hole before being buried up to her neck in the ground.[28] Amnesty International later learned that the girl was in fact 13 years old and had been arrested by al-Shabab militia after she had reported being gang-raped by three men.[29]

In December 2009, another instance of stoning was publicised after Mohamed Abukar Ibrahim was accused of adultery by the Hizbul Islam militant group.[30]


Support for stoning

A survey carried out by the Indonesia Survey Institute found that 48% of Indonesians support Rajam or stoning for adulterers.[31]

Groups against stoning

Stoning has been condemned by several human rights organizations. Some groups, such as Amnesty International[32] and Human Rights Watch, oppose all capital punishment, including stoning. Other groups, such as and RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), oppose stoning per se as an especially cruel practice.

Specific sentences of stoning, such as the Amina Lawal case, have often generated international protest. Groups like Human Rights Watch,[33] while in sympathy with these protests, have raised a concern that the Western focus on stoning as an especially "exotic" or "barbaric" act distracts from what they view as the larger problems of capital punishment. They argue that the "more fundamental human rights issue in Nigeria is the dysfunctional justice system."

In Iran, the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign was formed by various women's rights activists after a man and a woman were stoned to death in Mashhad in May 2006. The campaign's main goal is to legally abolish stoning as a form of punishment for adultery in Iran.[22]

People who were stoned to death

People who were almost stoned

  • Amina Lawal, sentenced to death by stoning in Nigeria in 2002, but freed on appeal
  • Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani sentenced to death by stoning in Iran in 2007, but sentence is under review

People stoned in religious texts

In the Tanakh and Old Testament:

In the New Testament:


People who were almost stoned in religious texts

In the Tanakh and Old Testament:

In the New Testament:

In literature

In film and television

  • Seven Sleepers, 2005 – A series running on Iranian TV, in which medieval (300–400 AD) Jews stone Christians.[36]
  • A Stoning in Fulham County, 1988 – A made-for-TV movie surrounding the vigilante stoning in an American Amish community.[37]
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian presents a Jesus of Nazareth-era stoning in a humorous context, ending with a massive boulder being dropped on the Jewish official, not the victim. The film mentions that women are not allowed at stonings, yet almost all of the stone-throwers turn out to be women disguised as men.
  • Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" was made into a short (20 minute) film by Larry Yust in 1969 as part of an educational release for Encyclopædia Britannica's "Short Story Showcase".[38]
  • The film The Kite Runner depicts the stoning of an adulteress by the Taliban in a public stadium during a football match.
  • The film Mission Istanbul depicts the stoning of an adulteress in Kabul, by the fictional terrorist group Abu Nazir until it is interrupted by the protagonist Vikas Sagar.
  • The Stoning of Soraya M. 2009
  • Year One

See also



  1. Herodotus reports the case of Lycidas in his Histories, Book IX.
  2. Oedipus asks to be stoned to death when he learns that he killed his father.
  3. Jerusalem Talmud (Sanhedrin 41 a)
  4. makkot 1:10 March 11, 2008
  5. Moses Maimonides, Sefer Hamitzvot, Negative Commandment no. 290.
  6. Moses Maimonides, The Commandments, Neg. Comm. 290, at 269–71 (Charles B. Chavel trans., 1967).
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Capital Punishment". Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  8. "Ask the Orthodox Rabbi – Adultery in Judaism – Capital Punishment – Death Penalty". 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2010-09-12.
  9. Muhammad Amin. "The number of authentic hadiths (Arabic)". Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  10. Koran (24:2)
  11. Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. "Sahih Bukhari". Retrieved 2010-10-02.
  12. "Stoning In Islam". Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  13. "Stoning: Does It Have Any Basis in Shari`ah?". Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  14. Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. "Sahih Bukhari, Book 17: Book of Punishments, Chapter 6: Stoning To Death Of Jews And Other Dhimmis In Case of Adultery". Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  15. Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. "Sahih Bukhari, Book 23: Funerals". Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  16. Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement. "Sahih Bukhari, Book 50: Conditions". Retrieved 2010-07-25.
  17. "Afghan Police Probe Woman Stoning Over Adultery". SpiritHit News via April 25, 2005. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  18. The Hindu, "Taliban stones couple to death in northern Afghanistan", DUBAI, August 16, 2010,
  19. "Taliban Stone Couple for Adultery in Afghanistan". Fox News. Associated Press. August 16, 2010. Retrieved August 16, 2010.
  20. Katie Hamann Aceh's Sharia Law Still Controversial in Indonesia Voice of America 29 December 2009
  21. "Iraq: Amnesty International appalled by stoning to death of Yezidi girl and subsequent killings". Amnesty International. April 27, 2007. Archived June 6, 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Rochelle Terman (November 2007). "The Stop Stoning Forever Campaign: A Report" (pdf). Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Iran to scrap death by stoning". AFP. August 6, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  24. "Iran denies execution by stoning". BBC News. 11 January 2005. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  25. Caroline Keichian. "Iran Parliament Plans to End Stoning". Take Part – Inspiration to Action. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  26. "Abolish Stoning and Barbaric Punishment Worldwide!". International Society for Human Rights. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  27. "Somali woman executed by stoning". BBC News. 2008-10-27. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  28. "Stoning victim 'begged for mercy'". BBC News. 2008-11-04. Retrieved 2010-05-24.
  29. "Somalia: Girl stoned was a child of 13". Amnesty International. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  30. "Pictured: Islamic militants stone man to death for adultery in Somalia as villagers are forced to watch". London: Daily Mail. 2009-12-14. Retrieved 2009-12-14.
  31. Trend Dukungan Nilai Islamis versus Nilai Sekular di Indonesia Lembaga Survei Indonesia 05/10/2007
  32. "Amina Lawal: Sentenced to death for adultery". Amnesty International. 2003. Archived from the original on 2003-05-05.
  33. "Nigeria: Debunking Misconceptions on Stoning Case". Human Rights Watch. 2003. Archived from the original on 2004-01-02.
  34. Marisela Ortega (29 September 2010). "Man, sons convicted of stoning El Paso woman to death in Juárez". El Paso Times. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  35. Cyntia Barrera (27 September 2007). "Small-town mayor stoned to death in western Mexico". Reuters AlertNet. Retrieved 2010-10-13.
  36. "Iran TV: 'Evil' Jews stoning Christians". January 5, 2005.
  37. "A Stoning in Fulham County". release date 1988.
  38. "The Lottery". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2010-09-23.

External links


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